Death in the Margins

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Humanities/Philosophies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 November 2020) | Viewed by 39444

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798, USA
Interests: death; dying; grief

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Guest Editor
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, School of Health Sciences, University of Surrey, Surrey GU2 7XH, UK
Interests: death; dying; grief; marginalized populations; cancer

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Death in the Margins focuses on non-traditional aspects of death, dying, grief, and concepts of the afterlife. Unfortunately, much of the work that continues to be written on this subject is about white, protestant, and middle-class populations and/or focuses on traditional topics. This edition of Religions aims to offer an alternate corrective to this focus, with an aim to center on either populations in the margins of society, or topics in death and dying that continue to remain in the margins (e.g., child death, dying, death, and grief in nonwhite populations or among women, and other marginalized populations, transhumanism, etc.). This edition would supplement the existing literature in the field by highlighting diversity in death and religion, and religious practices that are nontraditional, nonwestern, and beyond the current literature written on largely white and protestant populations.

Dr. Candi K. Cann
Dr. Renske Visser
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

death; dying; grief; afterlife; margins; prison; cancer; transhumanism; African-American deathways;

digital; animal death; ghosts; child loss

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

11 pages, 249 KiB  
Article
Dying in the Margins: A Literature Review on End of Life in English Prisons
by Renske Claasje Visser
Religions 2021, 12(6), 413; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060413 - 04 Jun 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2744
Abstract
This paper explores dying in English prisons. Whilst often conflated, death and dying are conceptually different. While there is increased attention given to the investigation of deaths in custody, and the impact of prison deaths on healthcare staff and custodial staff, little attention [...] Read more.
This paper explores dying in English prisons. Whilst often conflated, death and dying are conceptually different. While there is increased attention given to the investigation of deaths in custody, and the impact of prison deaths on healthcare staff and custodial staff, little attention has been paid to the experience of dying people themselves. Post-death investigations tell us little about dying experiences of the dying. This paper reviewed the literature on dying in English prisons and highlights this clear gap in knowledge. Four types of dying will be discussed in this paper: (1) suicide, (2) dying in older age, (3) deaths post-release, and (4) COVID-19 deaths. The importance of providing good end-of-life care and palliative care in prison is acknowledged in the literature, but this only shows awareness of the needs of a particular part of the prison population. To understand the complexities and nuances of dying in prison, all voices need to be included in research, otherwise what is left post-death of a person who died in prison is a Fatal Incidence Report. More empirical research is needed to illuminate the diversity of prison deaths and the lived reality of those dying behind locked doors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the Margins)
21 pages, 702 KiB  
Article
Dying to Go Green: The Introduction of Resomation in the United Kingdom
by Georgina M. Robinson
Religions 2021, 12(2), 97; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12020097 - 31 Jan 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 9245
Abstract
In an age where concern for the environment is paramount, individuals are continuously looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint—does this now extend to in one’s own death? How can one reduce the environmental impact of their own death? This paper considers [...] Read more.
In an age where concern for the environment is paramount, individuals are continuously looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint—does this now extend to in one’s own death? How can one reduce the environmental impact of their own death? This paper considers various methods of disposing the human body after death, with a particular focus on the environmental impact that the different disposal techniques have. The practices of ‘traditional’ burial, cremation, ‘natural’ burial, and ‘resomation’ will be discussed, with focus on the prospective introduction of the funerary innovation of the alkaline hydrolysis of human corpses, trademarked as ‘Resomation’, in the United Kingdom. The paper situates this process within the history of innovative corpse disposal in the UK in order to consider how this innovation may function within the UK funeral industry in the future, with reference made to possible religious perspectives on the process. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the Margins)
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10 pages, 198 KiB  
Article
Funeral for a Homeless Vagrant? Religious and Social Margins
by Lucy Bregman
Religions 2021, 12(1), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12010030 - 01 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1765
Abstract
A “homeless vagrant” was the term used by Protestant clergy of the first half of the twentieth century for a man without name, family or history who died on the street. Clergy were asked to perform a funeral for him, but as his [...] Read more.
A “homeless vagrant” was the term used by Protestant clergy of the first half of the twentieth century for a man without name, family or history who died on the street. Clergy were asked to perform a funeral for him, but as his religious status was unknown, his funeral posed a problem for them. How could one preach a hopeful Christian message, for one who may not have had faith in Christ? This paper uses pastors’ manuals and sermon collections to understand how this kind of “problem funeral” was interpreted as an example of a marginal death both religiously and socially. Although there were no mourners, the purpose of the funeral was worship of God, who was always ready to receive us. The homeless vagrant’s funeral was also an occasion for reproach, against the anonymity, impersonality and moral danger of urban life. The homeless vagrant’s extreme isolation and abandonment made him a warning to all. The paper closes with the contrast between this view of death on the street, and that conveyed in recent Homeless Persons Memorial Day services, organized by activists for the homeless. The latter see the homeless as persons with names and stories, part of a counter-community in cities. The tone of reproach is much more prominent here, too. Society has failed these people. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the Margins)
20 pages, 4472 KiB  
Article
Doctrinal and Physical Marginality in Christian Death: The Burial of Unbaptized Infants in Medieval Italy
by Madison Crow, Colleen Zori and Davide Zori
Religions 2020, 11(12), 678; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11120678 - 17 Dec 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 7438
Abstract
The burial of unbaptized fetuses and infants, as seen through texts and archaeology, exposes friction between the institutional Church and medieval Italy’s laity. The Church’s theology of Original Sin, baptism, and salvation left the youngest children especially vulnerable to dying unbaptized and subsequently [...] Read more.
The burial of unbaptized fetuses and infants, as seen through texts and archaeology, exposes friction between the institutional Church and medieval Italy’s laity. The Church’s theology of Original Sin, baptism, and salvation left the youngest children especially vulnerable to dying unbaptized and subsequently being denied a Christian burial in consecrated grounds. We here present textual and archaeological evidence from medieval Italy regarding the tensions between canon law and parental concern for the eternal salvation of their infants’ souls. We begin with an analysis of medieval texts from Italy. These reveal that, in addition to utilizing orthodox measures of appealing for divine help through the saints, laypeople of the Middle Ages turned to folk religion and midwifery practices such as “life testing” of unresponsive infants using water or other liquids. Although emergency baptism was promoted by the Church, the laity may have occasionally violated canon law by performing emergency baptism on stillborn infants. Textual documents also record medieval people struggling with where to bury their deceased infants, as per their ambiguous baptismal status within the Church community. We then present archaeological evidence from medieval sites in central and northern Italy, confirming that familial concern for the inclusion of infants in Christian cemeteries sometimes clashed with ecclesiastical burial regulations. As a result, the remains of unbaptized fetuses and infants have been discovered in consecrated ground. The textual and archaeological records of fetal and infant burial in medieval Italy serve as a material legacy of how laypeople interpreted and sometimes contravened the Church’s marginalizing theology and efforts to regulate the baptism and burial of the very young. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the Margins)
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23 pages, 1002 KiB  
Article
A New Model of Consolation
by Christoph Jedan
Religions 2020, 11(12), 631; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11120631 - 24 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2841
Abstract
This article presents a new model of consolation that identifies five key themes: (1) an appeal to the inner strength of the consoland; (2) the regulation of emotion; (3) the attempt to preserve, re-write, and perfect the life of the deceased or, more [...] Read more.
This article presents a new model of consolation that identifies five key themes: (1) an appeal to the inner strength of the consoland; (2) the regulation of emotion; (3) the attempt to preserve, re-write, and perfect the life of the deceased or, more generally, a person undergoing a radical psycho-social transition; (4) a ‘healing’ worldview, in which death has a legitimate place; and (5) reconnection with the community at the different levels of, for instance, family, society and humanity. The study is based on the Western tradition of written consolations. It partially confirms—and also supersedes—earlier studies of consolation based on different methods and smaller ranges of material. The article explores the applicability of the framework beyond the consolatory tradition by analyzing two versions of the Roman Catholic rite of anointing the sick. It argues for the heuristic usefulness of the model in the field of ritual studies, both by demonstrating the limitations of prevalent typologies of ritual and by suggesting a fresh look at ritual efficacy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the Margins)
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36 pages, 380 KiB  
Article
Spiritual Reports from Long-Term HIV Survivors: Reclaiming Meaning While Confronting Mortality
by Kyle Desrosiers
Religions 2020, 11(11), 602; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110602 - 13 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3897
Abstract
Reports from Long-term HIV Survivors: Reclaiming Meaning while Confronting Mortality presents research completed by Kyle Desrosiers in conjunction with the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. Applying lifespan theory to spiritual development, it discusses the narratives of four American long-term HIV survivors from [...] Read more.
Reports from Long-term HIV Survivors: Reclaiming Meaning while Confronting Mortality presents research completed by Kyle Desrosiers in conjunction with the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. Applying lifespan theory to spiritual development, it discusses the narratives of four American long-term HIV survivors from Latter-day Saints, Roman Catholic (2), and Conservative Jewish backgrounds. The fifth profile is from a Protestant pastor with an HIV ministry in a rural area. These profiles are five selected from among 10 interviews with HIV-positive people and caregivers across America now archived by the author at Baylor University. Questions directing this research were: how does HIV status affect participants’ relationship to their religious communities, identities, and spiritualties?; what narratives emerge from lifespan perspectives of HIV-positive and queer participants?; and what spiritual practices, mythos, and beliefs evolve/remain as a product of living at the margins of religion and society, alongside coping with a deadly global epidemic? This project reports narratives of change, continuity, and meaning-making to discuss how several gay/queer men from a range of ethnic and faith backgrounds have used spirituality and worldview to navigate life. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the Margins)
17 pages, 278 KiB  
Article
Frozen Bodies and Future Imaginaries: Assisted Dying, Cryonics, and a Good Death
by Jeremy Cohen
Religions 2020, 11(11), 584; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110584 - 05 Nov 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 5353
Abstract
In October of 2018, Norman Hardy became the first individual to be cryopreserved after successful recourse to California’s then recently passed End of Life Options Act. This was a right not afforded to Thomas Donaldson, who in 1993 was legally denied the ability [...] Read more.
In October of 2018, Norman Hardy became the first individual to be cryopreserved after successful recourse to California’s then recently passed End of Life Options Act. This was a right not afforded to Thomas Donaldson, who in 1993 was legally denied the ability to end his own life before a tumor irreversibly destroyed his brain tissue. The cases of Norman Hardy and Thomas Donaldson reflect ethical and moral issues common to the practice of assisted dying, but unique to cryonics. In this essay, I explore the intersections between ideologies of immortality and assisted dying among two social movements with seemingly opposing epistemologies: cryonicists and medical aid in dying (MAiD) advocates. How is MAiD understood among cryonicists, and how has it been deployed by cryonicists in the United States? What are the historical and cultural circumstances that have made access to euthanasia a moral necessity for proponents of cryonics and MAiD? In this comparative essay, I examine the similarities between the biotechnological and future imaginaries of cryonics and MAiD. I aim to show that proponents of both practices are in search of a good death, and how both conceptualize dying as an ethical good. Cryonics members and terminal patients constitute unique biosocial worlds, which can intersect in unconventional ways. As temporalizing practices, both cryonics and MAiD reflect a will to master the time and manner of death. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the Margins)
15 pages, 255 KiB  
Article
Black Deaths Matter Earning the Right to Live: Death and the African-American Funeral Home
by Candi K. Cann
Religions 2020, 11(8), 390; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11080390 - 29 Jul 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 4258
Abstract
Black Deaths Matter: Earning the Right to Live—Death and the African-American Funeral Home recounts the history of black funeral homes in the United States and their role in demanding justice for bodies of color and the black community. Through funeral pageantry and vigilant [...] Read more.
Black Deaths Matter: Earning the Right to Live—Death and the African-American Funeral Home recounts the history of black funeral homes in the United States and their role in demanding justice for bodies of color and the black community. Through funeral pageantry and vigilant support for local communities, the African American funeral home has been central to ensuring that not only do Black Lives Matter, but black deaths count and are visible to the larger community. This paper is a slightly expanded version of the plenary talk for the Centre for Death and Society’s Politics of Death Conference at the University of Bath on 9 June 2018. This research and talk were supported by The Louisville Institute under the Project Grant for Researchers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Death in the Margins)
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